• A Kiss Before Dying



    Released By: Kino Lorber
    Released On: May 3, 2016
    Director: Gerd Oswald
    Cast: Robert Wagner, Joanne Woodward, Jeffrey Hunter, Mary Astor, Robert Quarry
    Year: 1956
    Purchase From Amazon

    The Movie:

    Was there ever a greater on-screen slimeball than Robert Wagner in A Kiss Before Dying? Perhaps, but I'm hard-pressed to think on one at this moment. Wagner plays Bud Corliss, a 25 year-old University student who lives with his mom and spends more time trying to figure out how to make it big than actually putting in the hard work required to be successful. He does have one thing going for him, though; smoldering good looks and a perfect hairstyle that makes the ladies swoon. In an effort to marry into money, he uses his great hair and athletic frame to woo classmate Dorothy "Dorie" Kingship (Joanne Woodward), the daughter of a wealthy mining magnate. Bud gets a little too far ahead of himself, however, and gets Dorie knocked up, an event that will certainly lead to Mr. Kingship disowning the pregnant girl. When Dorie decides that she doesn't need her father's money and that her love for her baby daddy will triumph over all, Bud decides to cut his losses and introduce Dorie to the slippery rooftop view from a nearby municipal building.

    Learning from his mistakes, Bud readjusts his sights to settle on Dorie's sister Ellen (Virginia Leith), figuring that going slower on the impregnating thing might be a solution for success. Bud is the perfect gentleman, courting Ellen as it should be done, winning the young girl over and gaining favour with Mr. Kingship. Everything seems to be going well, if not for Ellen's nagging feeling that something other than depression-related suicide ended her sister's life. Her amateur detective skills get her nowhere at first, but when she pools her resources with Dorie's former tutor (Jeffrey Hunter), the results send Bud scrambling to cover his tracks.

    Ira Levin's novel of the same name is such powerful source material, A Kiss Before Dying could've been somewhat decent even in the most incompetent of hands. Fortunately, we have a whole raft of talent here, driving the film to greatness. Wagner is fantastic as Bud Corliss, playing every scene as a grease-dripping scumbag who has no emotion outside of self-indulgence, but looks so damn good at the same time. The supporting cast is stellar as well, but must take a backseat to Mr. Wagner as he and his perfect hair steal every scene that they're in. That's definitely not a slam against the talented likes of Joanne Woodward, Virginia Leith, Jeffrey Hunter, and Robert Quarry; they all nail their roles in a way that's sadly lacking in so many films.

    Directorial newcomer Gerd Oswald knocks his first film out of the park, with brilliantly shot scenes throughout...with the scene between Bud and Dorie on the roof standing out as one of the most suspenseful moments ever found on celluloid...and an eye for good composition. Combined with a grandiose score by the experienced Lionel Newman, Oswald's creations achieve new heights, peppering A Kiss Before Dying with enough on-screen genius to make the minor plot holes inconsequential. Few films fit in the category of being practically perfect on every level; A Kiss Before Dying definitely rates.

    Video/Audio/Extras:

    Kino brings A Kiss Before Dying to Blu-ray in an AVC-encoded 2.35:1 transfer that looks great for a film that's turning 60 years old. Colours are vibrant for the most part, and detail is crisp, with minimal dirt and damage, but a healthy amount of grain present. Some scenes look better than others, however, and there are instances of some interesting fluctuations in colour, as well as some minor issues with scene transitions...but otherwise, a bright and aesthetically pleasing look.

    Audio is handled by the English DTS-HD Master Audio 2.0 track, which sounds perfectly adequate here. Dynamic range is good, and the stereo track never sounds confined or tinny. Dialogue is clear throughout, and balanced well with the sweeping score and sound effects. No subtitles are provided.

    A very yelly Trailer for the film is included.

    The Final Word:

    A fantastic film gets a nice HD upgrade from Kino.


    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!





















    Comments 3 Comments
    1. Andrew Monroe's Avatar
      Andrew Monroe -
      Great review, Mark. I'm glad to see some appreciation for this film, it's sort of neglected when thrillers of that time are discussed. While I do think the novel handled the aspect of the killer in a better, more shocking way (not revealing it until about midway through), that approach wouldn't have worked well in the film obviously. Also, I have a thing for Virginia Leith (see also VIOLENT SATURDAY and THE BRAIN THAT WOULDN'T DIE(!))...that husky voice sends me!
    1. Mark Tolch's Avatar
      Mark Tolch -
      Haha, I can see that, she is pretty stunning. The film is pretty amazing, Wagner is SUCH a dirtbag haha. But damn, does he look good doing it!
    1. C.D. Workman's Avatar
      C.D. Workman -
      Yep, that's a very good review. You have a breezy, relaxed way of writing that's very good at pulling the reader in.